A DURHAM County Councillor who quit the Labour Party last year has lost a bid to continue leading a key council committee overseeing children’s services.

Days after the general election polls closed, Cllr Peter Brookes announced he was leaving Durham County Council’s Labour group along with fellow Trimdon and Thornley councillor Jude Grant.

In an open letter posted on social media, the pair criticised national Labour leadership, stating the party had “abandoned traditional values” and “moved to the far left".

The letter also claimed debate between local councillors on the issue had been “shut down”.

After leaving the Labour party, the councillors automatically lost their seats on council committees including the Corporate Parenting Panel, which Cllr Brookes previously chaired. Both are currently listed as independents with no affiliation to any party.

At a recent meeting of Durham County Council, opposition councillors launched a bid to return Cllr Brookes to the role.

The move came during an item to appoint a chair to the Corporate Parenting Panel, with Labour’s Cllr Ivan Jewell also nominated.

Cllr Brookes told the meeting the panel had gone from “strength to strength” over the last six years under his leadership.

The former social worker said he had led political changes in the panel which led to the panel receiving a good rating from Ofsted.

Other achievements included developing “positive links” with the Children in Care Council and leading the creation of a governing body for Aycliffe Secure Unit.

“This has led to a growing positive reputation for corporate parenting, good relationships between members and officers and a wide recognition that Durham has been getting it right,” he said.

In a speech on his nomination at Durham County Hall, Cllr Brookes also hit back at the council’s Labour group.

He added: ” I was very disappointed when following the Corporate Parenting Panel being nominated for an LGC (Local Government Chronicle) award, the Labour group decided to stop me attending the nomination meeting a fortnight ago on behalf of this council to make the case for Durham’s success under my watch.

“A decision that seems to have been taken for political reasons rather than for the good of Durham.

“Thank you for the support and I hope that all members will agree that it is in the interests of the council and more importantly Durham’s looked after children for me to continue in the role as chair.”

As Cllr Brookes was not a member of a political group council rules restricted him from returning as chair, the meeting heard.

Some opposition groups, including the Liberal Democrats and county council independents, offered to give up their seats on the Corporate Parenting Panel to allow the nomination.

A motion to defer the decision, proposed by Lib Dem councillor Mark Wilkes, was also defeated with 61 votes against, 42 in support and one abstention.

Cllr Ivan Jewell, who already served as a Corporate Parenting Panel member, didn’t speak on his own nomination at the meeting.

He was later appointed as chair of the panel with a majority vote, with 63 votes in favour, 36 against and five abstentions.